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tv   [untitled]    June 9, 2012 12:00pm-12:30pm EDT

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city, missouri. the weekend of july 7th and 8th on c-span2 and c-span3. history book shelf features popular american history writers of the past decade, and airs on american history tv every weekend at this time. 25 years ago, on june 12, 1987, president ronald reagan spoke by the brandenburg gate at the berlin wall and delivered the famous line, mr. gorbachev, tear down this wall. this weekend on history book shelf, romesh ratnesar talks about a speech and president that ended the cold war. this is an hour. >> i do want to thank you. it's a real privilege to speak to you on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the berlin wall and particularly wonderful to be here in kansas city, which is such an appropriate setting, because it was just a couple of blocks from this building at kemper arena,
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many remember, ronald reagan gave a speech 30 years ago that in many ways helped catapult him to the white house. reigh. just conceded defeat republican ford at the general convention and maybe people in the room today remember that ford, then, summoned reagan down from the skybox to address the delegates on the floor. reagan initially said he didn't want to come down. he said it was someone else's night, but eventually the ovation brought him down to the floor and he spoke for six minutes entirely impromptu without notes and what he said captivated the room and much of the nation that night. he conjured and imagined future at one point and talked about what it would be like to open a time capsule in 100 years. i find it remarkable.
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reagan said we live in a era that nuclear weapons can destroy virtually the civil liesed world we live in and wondered if the people opening that time capsule would look back and say thank god for the people who kept us now 100 years free and kept our world from nuclear disruption. when he finished speaking one delegate summed up reagan's performance to a reporter for "time" magazine which what ip think is the single best sdrepgs of reagan's talent. the man said ronald reagan could get a standing ovation in a graveyard. now, had it not been for that speech in kansas city that night, which really helped reagan salvage a losing campaign, there might not have been a reagan campaign in 1980. there might not have been a reagan presidency and there might not have been a tear down this wall speech which is the subject of my book, and my remarks here tonight. what i want to do tonight is
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briefly, if i can, talk about some of the factors that contributed to the fall of the berlin wall, the end of the cold war, which i think stands today as a high water marks of u.s. foreign policy in the second half of the 20th century. so i'm going to sketch out a little bit -- some background of the speech. the context in which it was given. i want to explain why reagan's speech was such a pivotal event, and then i'd like to suggest some ways in which the end of the cold war has relevance to the challenges that face us today. brn i begin, i do want to just make a couple of points of personal privilege. i'm from new york, and as a new yorker, i've develop add thick skin and last night i was in houston and i told the audience that if at any point i heard booing during my speech, i would just assume that meant the yankees were winning. unfortunately, i don't have an excuse tonight, but i hope you'll bear with me.
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the second thing i wanted to say is that in this -- both in my remarks and in the book i try to be as thorough as possible but i'm sure there are details i will have overlooked, missed or simply got wrong. my job at "time" i work with a lot of different writers every day, and over the years i've found the best ones are those who never quite feel satisfied with their stories. they believe they could have done more or read more or made one more phone call or turned up one more undiscovered fact. now, i really admire that attitude and ethic, but as president reagan himself liked to say, they say hard work never killed anybody, but i figure, why take the chance? so on balance, i'm more si sympathetic to that view. so, please, forgive anything i might have missed during this speech. i do bring up that famous joke of president reaganal because i think it speaks to one of the
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themes i want to get to in these remarks. to this day as many of you know on both the right and the left ronald reagan is often reduced to a kind of duelling caricature. conservatives remember him as the tough-talking fighter who conquered big government, stared down the soviet union and won the cold war. and many liberals remember him as an amiable dunce in clark clifford's infamous phrase who blew a hole in the deficit and was manipulateed by his advisers if not his astrologers. now, there is some basis in reality for both of these caricature, but as i try to show in this book i believe both are also incomplete, inaccurate and misleading. during his presidency, reagan was far more adaptable politically shrewd and open to compromise than either his champions or critics prefer to admit. he believed particularly after he survived an assassination attempt against him in 1981 he a special mission to spread
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freedom and fight oppression but he sought to do that not through the use of force but through dialogue, diplomacy and sir situatio persuasion. those the qualitieses that is what reagan was trying to accomplish with his famous speech in berlin and why he ultimately succeeded in helping to end the cold war. before discussing the tear down this wall speech itself and the background of reagan's visit to berb berlin i want to challenge and dispel three misconceptions that has arisen over the years about the end of the cold war. the first myth is the notion the end of the u.s./soviet superpower rivalry was not a particularly momentous occasion and did not on balance make the world a safer place. the thinking goes according to this view that the consequences of a nuclear war between the u.s. and the soviet union were so great that neither side would ever initiate. and according to this view, the cold war was actual lay period of relative global stability.
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a long peace, as some historians have actually termed it. i think this view is misguided for a few reasons. for one thing we know there were a number of occasions when the two sides actually did reach of the brink of a direct military confrontation either because of delivered prauv caucuses or more often unintended misunderstandings. in many parts of the world the cold war, of course, was anything but cold. hundreds of thousands of people died in proxy conflicts waged by the united states and soviets all around the world. more than 100,000 u.s. troops died in wars against communist enemies in korea and vietnam. ten times the number than have died in iraq and afghanistan. i think it's inar gugable the end of the cold world actually did make the world a more prosperous place especially for those living behind the iron curtain. today's "final times" an article on what life has been like for the countries of the warsaw pact since the fall of communism and the story said that living
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standards have risen 50% in the last 20 years and life expectancy has increased an average of four full years since the fall of communism, in those former communist countries. from 1989 to 2009, the number of democracies in the world nearly doubled, and the number of people living in poverty cut in half. to be sure the united states still faces threats from terrorism and nuclear proliferation, but the fact they're no longer thousands of nuclear warheads pointed at the united states means we're nor secure than it was in 45 years of the cold war. the second myth i want to challenge is the idea the collapse of communism in eastern europe and the soviet union was inevitable. now, according to this view, the contradictions at the heart of the socialist system meant it was doomed to fail no matter what. the collapse of communism was overdetermined as economists like to say. but as the historian archie brown writes in his new stud ip "the history of communism"
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prolonged economic failure does not by itself lead to the fall of the regime. by the middle of the 1980s, the american company was in bad shape and in desperate need of reform but not near at dire in the days of world war ii when that country had the to refwrild the runes of a con flact killed 20 million of its citizens. the soviet-backed government behind legitimate sip it's true but there are many examples today of regimes that managed to hold on to power under similar circumstances, places like cuba, iran, burma, north korea. it's probably safe to say communism would have collapsed eventually, but by no means inevitable it would collapse when it did or that the toppling of one communist regime after another in 1989 would unfold as peacefully as it did. and this leads me to the third misconception or myth that i'd like to challenge, and that is the idea that ronald reagan won the cold war. now, this is a view that's taken hold since reagan left office and grown even more popular
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since his death in 2004. and the week of his funeral, for instance, the economists magazine ran a cover of reagan under the heading "the man who beat communism." in the view of many admirers, reagan defeated communism through his uncompromising rhetoric. he was the man who was willing to call the soviet union an eve's empire. willing to predict that the west would leave leninism on the back sheet of history and demanded that mikhail gosh shauv tear down the berlin wall. indeed, tens of thousands it of speeches throughout his career from the time until college until the end of his presidency. tear down this wall in my view has become the defining statement of reagan's career. if you visit the reagan library in simi valley, as many of you have i'm sure, you know, the connection between reagan and berlin is everywhere. everywhere you look. there's a giant slab of the wall there that was bought and
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installed in the early '90s. can you watch clips of reagan's speech played on endless loop. and this connection between reagan and the fall of the berlin wall persists even in the fact that the statue of reagan recently unveiled in the rotunda in congress actually contains chunks of the wall in its pedestal. so the connection and the -- the bond between reagan and berlin in the minds of people is extremely strong. but what i kind of do in this book and would like to dobb in the next minutes place his speech in the final context of his final years in relation shi gorbachev and argue its impossible to have the true significance of tear down this wall without the relationship between the two most powerful men in the world. it was this relationship, this partnership, that was the single biggest reason why the berlin wall fell when it did. ronald reagan -- of communism
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and the way it suppressed the human spirit, and in him no starker embodiment of that tyranny than the berlin wall. he liked to say throughout his clear it's the only wall that was ever built to keep people in rather than keep people out. as early as 1967 while still governor of california he said that the u.s. should have knocked down the barbed wire separating east and west berlin the moment the communist put it up in 1961. when he visited west ber flynn 1978 before running for president was told the story of an east germ's teenager killed trying to crawl over the wall in 1962. the border guards, reagan was told, left this young man unattended for hours as an example while he bled to death. peter hatafford a longtime aide of reagan with them that day said reagan gritted his teeth when he heard this. you could tell from the set of his jaw and look he was very, verify determined this was something that had to go. throughout his presidency reagan often returned to the subject of 9 wall, even before he went to
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berlin in 1987. even though most people at this time including many germans resigned themselves to living with the division of the city. when reagan visited west germany in 1985, the occasion of his controversial visit to the bitburg cemetery he said ahead may be a time when the artificial burialing will are cast away, no need for weapons ar barbed wire in berlin. these are not dreams. i believe we have every reason for confidence. as much as reagan hated the wall and the totalitarian system is represented, even more aware of the conflicts. from the earliest days of his presidency as we now know from letters and documents revealed over the last fur yees, reagan sought to establish a dialogue with leadership in the kremlin to no avail, at least at first. remember, a success session of soviet leaders who died one after another in the early '80s
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reagan said at one point, how can i make peace with these people if they keep dying on me? he did authorize massive increases in military spending and stepped up support to anti-communist rebels in places like nicaragua and afghanistan but reagan did so because he sincerely believed negotiating from strength he could convince them to come to the bargains table and make peace. and reagan and i think this is really critical had a genuine fear that if things did not change, the super powers were on a collision course that could end in a nuclear war. in 1983, in fact, the u.s. military exercise was mistaken by the kremlin as a preparation for a possible first strike. reagan was aghast when told the soviets had put her warplanes on combat alert in response. a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought is something he often said. it wasn't until gorbachev arrived on the scene in 1985 reagan found a partner to do business with. when gorbachev is named general
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secretary in march of 1985, reagan reached out-of-out to him sending george shultz, secretary of state and vice president george bush to moscow to tell gorbachev he believed they had a special opportunity to work together. reagan's most important breakthrough that he recognized gorbachev as a different kind of soviet leader that had come before him. gorbachev belonged to a new generation who believed the system needed whole sale reform, economically and politically and that included a less hostile relationship with the west. the first meeting between gorbachev and reagan was in geneva in november of 1985 and even before that, the two of them had been exchanging letters. if you have a chance to read them, they're really amazing, because they show reagan reaching out, writing letters by hand and they're incredibly sincere and heartfelt as he tries to find a way to connect with gorbachev, this man he's never met. so in november 1985 in geneva
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they have their first meeting. there's that famous picture some of you remember of the two of them greeting each other, and gash chauv arrives at the villa wearing a top hat and overcoat to protect himself from the cold and reagan walks out, just wearing his suit. this is something that the white house people loved. i mean, this image around the world showing ronald reagan looking more youthful and vibrant than a man 20 years his junior. but reagan and gorbachev weren't interested in making political points. they saw each other, a person and a partner, with whom they could make a deep connection. gorbachev later said at that moment, we shook hands like we friends. now, reagan and gorbachev didn't come to any agreements in geneva, other than they had to keep talking, but there were a few memorable moments from that summit. at one point they took a walk to a boat house on the grounds of the villa where they were meeting. on the way back reagan turned to gosh clave. what would you do in the united states were suddenly attacked by
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someoneouter space. would you help jus no doubt about it, gorbachev said. we, too. an interesting moment, something that was actually quite common. reagan often talked about how, that the possibility of an attack from outer space by aliens could ultimately bring the two sides together. the two leaders met again a year later in reik vic, island, their most famous summit of all. and it was there they came with a hair's breadth of abolishing all nuclear weapons until the deal fell apart when reagan refused development of the strategic defense initiative, star wars program. at that time much of the outside world saw failure toll reach agreed as a huge setback for the cause of disarmament. george shultz, in fact, nearly broke down in tears when discussing this.
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again, both reagan and gorbachev saw things differently. political instincts allowed them to recognize the super power relationship was turning a corner. even if others did not. when reagan spoke to the nation from the oval office after returning from iceland, he said we are closer than ever before toll agreements that could lead to a world safer without nuclear weapons. gorbachev, similar feelings spoke after the summit and said prik vick reikvick is not a fai. it's a breakthrough nap was 1987. by that time he and gorbachev established a dialogue and understanding about the terms in which the arms race would come to an end. in my book i go into detail about the anguish that reagan's diplomacy and willingness to do business with gorbachev was causing among conservatives including members of his own administration who believed gorbachev was laying a trap for reagan and trying to trick him into a deal giving societies
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strategic superiority over the west. for a lot of people inside and outside of the -- less indication the berlin wall was going to come down. so when reagan's speechwriters attempted to insert the phrase, tear down this wall, into the draft of the address, reagan would give it the brigade it met with opposition. howard baker, then the chief of staff said, the line was so unrealist unrealistic, so unlikely it would happen, it was unpresidential. reagan should not deliver it. others in the administration thought would embarrass gorbachev and strengthen hard-liners in the kremlin opposed to his reforms. george shultz, in fact, later denied it but did tell one aide the speech would set back all the progress we've made in u.s.-soviet relations. reagan didn't have any of these same preserveations. just one line in a 28-minute address but he made it clear it
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was the one thing he wanted to say. he told the speechwriters when they met him and gave him the drafts and asked what he thought, that that was the one line, and when the speech writers learned this was the one thing reagan wanted to say, that was all the ammunition they needed to fend off the attacks and the efforts of other people in the administration to take the line out. now, it's possible reagan was just relying on an old actor the sixth sense for a killer line but there may be a simpler xran explanation. he thought it would work. reagan believed in reaching out to gorbachev and pushing him to pursue change, calling on him to open the brigade and dare down the wall in reagan's view might implore him to do it. coinciding with conservatives on both sides of the wall. a few days before we arrived the east german state police clashed with hundreds of east german youths who had tried to go close to the wall to listen to a rock concert taking place on the other side. this was an almost unprecedented revolt against the government and one of the first signs
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looking back that we have of the communist grip was starting to weaken. meanwhile, over in west berlin, protests against reagan's visit by west german leftists turned violent and caused running street battles with police that lasted into the early hours of the morning. reagan flew into west berlin from venice have he'd been attending a g-7 economic summit. in the newspaper reports of summit, there say the of emphasis at this time, many remember, on reagan's lapses of memory. his tendency to get districted, even fall asleep. reagan did love being president. i think he love frd td the trap of the office, public events, performance, no question especially at his age, overseas travel was taxing. early in his presidency on a visit to brazil he gave a toast saying how wonderful it was to be in bolivia. he fell asleep at inopportune times. once during a meeting with the
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pope. another time during the moscow summit with gorbachev. during one unfortunate incident in london fell asleep during a meeting with a delegation of japan at the end shook hands with his japanese interpreter and said, well, mr. foreign minister, it sure has been a pleasure. but reagan could still rides to the occasion, and when he got to it brandenburg gate there were anywhere from 20,000 to 40,000 people standing in front of him. in the weeks leading up to the speech in fact the secret service demanded the bullet-proof wall be built behind the podium to protect reagan guess the possibility of someone shooting at him from east berlin. the white house's advance team responsible for the staging of the speech and putting the backdrop together protested if you put the wall up, viewers watching in the u.s. wouldn't be able to see the wall behind the berlin wall, behind reagan. what they did, cut a glass square. you see the picture, you see glass square behind reagan cut into the wall so when tv cameras
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from -- showed the reagan speech, you could see the graffiti on the wall behind him. the speech was actually broadcast on all three networks. they cut into the morning shows to show the reagan address, which frankly is sort of unheard of. i don't think i could imagine that happening today. now, what struck me in listening over and over again to reagan's speech in berlin is the clarity and force in his voice even at the age of 76. there's one sign the soviets can make that is unmistableable advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. general secretary gorbachev, if you see peace, if you see prosperity for the soviet union, and eastern europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. mr. gorbachev, open this gate. when howard bake here had earlier opposed the insertion of the next six words, mr. gorbachev, tear down this wall, heard reagan deliver them, he knew at once he been trong oppose it, and he later told me
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that i was glad not to be right about this. it would take another two years for the wall to come down. so what was the ultimate significance of reagan's berlin wall speech? very few presidential speeches even the most famous kun ones in our history introduce immediate change or inspire listeners to take actions. but the ones that stand the test of time do so because of the ideas they represent. and that explains why the words "tear down this wall" resmin resonant today. the speech was on the right side of history. it expressed reagan's core beliefs that people could overcome their differences, that the world need not remain divided and that change was possible. that's the vision he was working with gorbachev to realize during all of those years when he was president. in my book i quote george shultz who told me in, reflecting on the speech that there were people who thought the soviet union would never change. we're here, they're there. that's life. coexistence is the name of the
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game. ronald reagan challenged that. if you went to berlin and you looked at that wall, it looked like it would be there forever, but to go there and say, tear down this wall, was a statement that things could change. reagan's speech also identified berlin as the proving ground of gorbachev's intention to open up the communist bloc and end the conflict with the west. it gorbachev sought peace and liberalization and truly wanted to bring the cold war to an end, simply signing arms control agreements wasn't enough. he had to let the berlin wall come down and in the fall of 1989 as communist power crumbled in country after country across europe, that is exactly what gorbachev did. i think his great achievement and his great breakthrough was rather than intervene with military force, as his predecessors did in hungary and czechoslovakia, he allowed dock degrees take its course. for that he won the nobel peace flies 1990. though he never iran tended it
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this way -- never intended it it would lead to the collapse of the soviet union itself nf 1991 and the end of the cold war. before i get to lesson wes might be able to draw from reagan's success in ending the cold war why not to briefly mention events whose anniversary the world will mark next week. it's one of the quirks of history that the opening of the brandenburg gate and the fall of the berlin wall actually happened by accident. remember the summer of 1989 in the moss leading up to nofr 9th the hungarian government opened its borders with austrian west germany allowing east germans coming to hng gungary to travel the west and never come back. once the borders were open, thousands of east germanswere pouring out and going to third world countries and emigrating. they recognized it was impossible, could not sustain
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it. the population was voting with their feet. they decide to institute new regulations that would give east germans passports to travel legally outside the country which is a right most east germans for 28 years had not had the right. the right to the have. the idea, phase these things gradually, but when the government official announcing the changes was asked when they would go into effect on the 9th he said immediately. without delay. so within minutes, german tell ve television reported the gates were open and thousands rushed the checkpoints at the wall. as further 9 guards tried to check but then realized it was hopeless to do so. during my research i spoke to a number of east germans who shared stories what life was like under the communists and what a strange and exhilarating experience to step into west berlin on the night of november 9th. we can all remember pictures of germans popping champagne and running into the arms of complete strangers. no one in berlin went to sleep
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that night. in washington, the news actually caught the white house by surprise, and one person i talked to about this was kaund lea condoleezza rice. the white house top soviet specialist. rice was in her office that day, that afternoon when she received a call from brent xoecraft's aide. the president wants you over here right way. what's going on in ber xwlin the aide said. rice said after a pause, what's going on in berlin? turn on cnn, the aide said. that's when koncondi rice reali the people were there crossing and carving up the berlin wall. what can current leaders learn from those who presided over the peaceful end of the cold war jie think can be dangerous to offer too many prescriptions based on the part and try to apply them to challenges that are much different, but let me just offer three broad principles that i think we can learn from, from
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this period. the first in my mind is that soft power often works better than military force. reagan believed in pressure erg the soviets and speaking out against communism. but he was also determined to negotiate with them. he believed you had to talk to your enemies. the fact that meaner one of us likes the other system is no reads ton refuse to talk, reagan liked to say. ronald reagan's convictions never changed. he implord nuclear war. he believed in superiority of capitalism over socialism and he had faith in the power of freedom. but he also believed that those values could not be imposed on others by force. he often said he dreamed of taking gosh dmauv a helicopter tour of dmoeshg show him the material benefits american enjoyed when the russian people were missing out on. reagan often referred to america as a shining city on a hill because he believed our example at home was our best weapon for pursuing or interests abroad. reagan didn't
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